Saturday 14 January 2017

An Interview with IRON HEARSE

Iron Hearse have been in business since 2001. This South West England-based doom power-trio rocks and rumbles heavily bringing dynamic and charged doom-based stuff without compromises and sentiments. They have three full-length albums in their discography and a handful of smaller releases; they’re known because of their powerful live gigs and vivid studio records. Iron Hearse has a pretty stable line-up: Grant Powell (guitars, vocals) and Liam Khan (bass) are in the band since its founding. As drummer Kev came later in 2012 from Grant’s punk band Raging T.

The band released digital demo “Tomb Metal” on October 2016. Is it harbinger of their new full-length? Let’s ask Grant about it!

Hi Grant! How are you? What is Iron Hearse current status?

Hi Aleks, I’m very well. Thanks for sending me your questions. Iron Hearse played a few shows in 2016 and we're now on a break. We hope to come back soon with some brand new material.

The band is active for about 16 years, how does it feel to drive Iron Hearse for such period?

I'm proud of what the band has achieved - we've put out three albums, a couple of EPs, released our music on vinyl and played gigs all over the UK, Ireland, France, Germany, The Netherlands, Vienna, Budapest and Malta so we've been very lucky considering we are not a big or famous band. We've met some great people over the years and played some amazing shows. I would love to visit the U.S. as well as Finland and also a return trip to Germany for some more shows there, so we'll see what the future brings.

What's most inspiring feedback you got consider Iron Hearse?

We have always been totally blown away by all of the great positive feedback we've received. From the early demos right up to the last proper album, 2014's 'Deal with it', we haven't really received any criticism, and continue to be surprised by how much people enjoy what we do.

Well, true to say, I read some responses that with the second album “Get in the Hearse” you didn’t move further and just stayed there you were with “Iron Hearse” debut. I would argue with that but what do you think about necessity of professional growth? Is it OK to do things you did before or is it really needful to develop some aspects of a band?

I think it depends on the style of music and what you’re trying to achieve as a band. Some bands go on a journey where they feel that they have to develop the style and push themselves more and more. We have always just been happy to produce more of the same type of sounds, as long as people keep enjoying in and we enjoy it too. I have always liked the way that, with bands like Motorhead, Iron Maiden, or even Pentagram or Fu Manchu – you know what you’re going to get with each album. It’s not exactly the same, but we’re not going to deviate too much from our chosen musical path!

Grant, you also play in Raging T. How much of punk rock aesthetic you bring in Iron Hearse?

Well, there were quite a few punk moments on the last album, 'Deal with it', perhaps a little too much. Ha ha.

Kev (drums) and I needed an outlet for writing some simple hard rock/metal music with more punk incorporated too, so we created Raging T and had great fun recording our debut EP. Kev plays drums and does some backing shouts and I play everything else.

Iron Hearse – Lunar Funeral

What are your favorite topics when writing lyrics? What do you prefer to sing about in Iron Hearse?

It's kind of a cliche but it's really just HP Lovecraft stories, sci-fi, horror, and other crazy ideas; same as a lot of other metal bands - ha ha.

Can you name some concrete movies on which you base your songs on?

Yeah. Vessel of Astaroth from ‘Get in the Hearse’ is based on the Hammer Horror film, ‘To the devil a daughter’. ‘They beckon from below’ from the ‘Deal with it’ album is based on the film ‘Dagon’ and the HP Lovecraft stories ‘Dagon’ and ‘The shadow over Innsmouth’. I’m sure there are others but these are the ones that immediately come to mind.

Grant, I need to tell you that band’s name is bloody good! You don’t have anything else to show that the band is about. And same with albums’ titles (especially debut self-titled and “Get in the Hearse”). How did you figure out this very idea?

I used to work in an office with our original drummer, Ian. We decided that the band needed a very Heavy Metal name, and were talking about it at our desks at work. We thought, well, Iron is a really heavy metal so why not use that. Next we thought that it needed something in the name to do with death… how about a hearse?, a funeral car!! “Iron Hearse”.

We laughed about it and then thought – ‘Yes, that would make a great band name!’

With what kind of feeling did you record debut “Iron Hearse”? What did you want to express through it?

I think we really just wanted to improve and build on what we started with our original demos. Chris Young had joined the band on drums at that time, and we had already recorded our 'Peddle the metal' EP which featured material that was slightly more technical than what we had done before. The debut album mixed the feel of the EP with the style of the original demos and people seemed to really enjoy the result.

There's 7 years long break between “Iron Hearse” and “Get in the Hearse” albums. What did slow down the band back then?

I think it was mainly a change of drummers. Chris left the band in 2009 and Stu joined. We recorded our 'Lunar Funeral EP' and went on a European tour with Leather Nun America in 2010. After this we again went through another line-up change, and were lucky enough to get Kev ex-Battlewitch on drums for our Get in the hearse and Deal with it albums, which we self released after the closing of Psychedoomelic Records, our previous label home.

Was it really a problem to find a label after Psychedoomelic shutdown? I suppose that making things in DIY way could be a real pain in the ass, or do some labels provide worst pain in the ass than DIY way does?

To be honest we did not really try very hard to find a new label. Kev joined the band on drums for our ‘Get in the Hearse’ album and decided to release it on his Snake Mountain records label. We did the same with ‘Deal with it’.

What are you most bright or maybe even extreme memories about touring with Leather Nun America? Did you ever play for money? Did you sleep in the field in winter? Did you fight with wolves for piece of meat on your way home? Did you sink in Grimpen Mire?!

Ha ha, it was all pretty civilized really. Lots of drinking and eating pizza. I think we spent a lot of time asleep in between shows. We were all surprised how tiring it really was. We covered quite a big distance, sometimes 10 hour drives in a day, so we just spent a lot of time on the road in the van. It was great getting to spend some time sightseeing in Vienna, Budapest, and we even stopped for lunch in Prague although we were not actually playing there. It was great fun.

The band is based in South West England, how does your surrounding reflect in your songs? How much of Swindon in Iron Hearse?

Well, Swindon is in Wiltshire, the home of crop circles, Stonehenge and Avebury, so I'm sure some west country mysticism and magic have influenced our metal.

Did you ever dance naked in Stonehenge?!

Ha ha, no. Although people might think it is just like it was in the 1970’s and that you can wander around freely, building fires and dancing naked, in reality it has high fences, security, car parks, tourists everywhere and you have to pay to get in!

I actually prefer Avebury – a much smaller stone circle in a village, with a pub nearby.

Iron Hearse - live

Which factors did form Iron Hearse's sound? Can you tell that you reach the optimal balance on your latest record “Deal With It”?

Liam (bass) and I came from a death and thrash metal background, played a bit of black metal too, and finally decided to go for a much more stripped down 'rock' sound, with clean vocals rather than growling and screaming. I had been listening to a lot of Electric Wizard, Acrimony, Sleep, The Obsessed and Saint Vitus around the time we formed the band, and just wanted to play that kind of music.

I think actually, comparing the Iron Hearse albums, Get in the hearse was a slightly stronger record than Deal with it, but Deal with it has a far better production. Next time we hope to create something which is more focused and a mix between the Iron Hearse and Get in the hearse albums, with strong songs and a great production again.

What did drive you to release “Tomb Metal” demo digitally? Why don't you want to release it in physical format?

While we are not currently working on anything new, I thought fans of the band might like to hear these old recordings that I had just lying around. The recordings are unreleased tracks recorded at rehearsals by the Lunar Funeral line-up. It's a shame we didn't record proper studio versions, but I love the raw edge of these recordings. We won't release in physical format because these are only rehearsals taken straight from a CD-R. They are very low quality and have not been mixed or mastered; just issued through BandCamp as something extra for the people that enjoy the band.

How would you resume the Iron Hearse message?

I would like to thank all of the people that have bought our music, been to a show and supported the band over the years - we really appreciate it. Iron Hearse have always tried to write the kind of music that we all enjoy listening to, and to just get out and have fun playing it. Hopefully we'll see some of you out on the road soon!

Words by Aleks Evdokimov and Grant Powell